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Chapter 89: Be Superior To Your Opponent千金1 – An honorific term for daughter, usually used for richer families.
母妃2 – lady mother
五马分尸3 – a death sentence whereby the offender’s limbs and head would be tied using rope to five horses, and the horses would move in separate directions to tear the offender apart.
属下4 – subordinate.
The next morning, someone discovered the tracks of the white wolf near the hunting grounds. The emperor was superbly excited and brought out a huge regiment of cavalry to hunt it down.
The ladies were equally thrilled at the news.
“The white wolf is a sly animal, whoever catches it each year is hailed as a hero!”
“Bi Xia had ever caught it alive before, but what a pity it died after a few days because it stopped eating and drinking!”
“I’ve heard that its pelt is warm and comfortable, so if you wear it in the winter, you won’t have to wear another fur coat. If it is used to make a fur collar, it’ll definitely be gorgeous and impressive!”
“Yes yes, I wonder who will be the champion this year!”
Everyone was enthusiastically discussing about the highlight of the hunt.
After staying in her tent for three days, she attracted quite a lot of attention the moment Li Weiyang came out.
“Xianzhu, previously you fell from the horse while riding, are you feeling better now?”
“Yes I am, thank you, Liu Xiaojie, for your concern.” Li Weiyang smiled gently at the Qian Jin1 of the Finance Minister.
“You’re so brave, Rou Fei Niang Niang has been praising you; she has been telling everyone that if not for you, Jiu Gongzhu would have been in danger!” quipped her neighbour Sun Xiaojie. Hailing from a military family, Sun Xiaojie admired ladies who were valiant and graceful, so after hearing how Li Weiyang rushed forward bravely to protect Jiu Gongzhu, she inevitably had formed a good impression of her.
Li Weiyang smiled modestly. “If Sun Xiaojie had been around, I’m sure you would have done the same, and possibly even better than me.”
Sun Xiaojie grinned back. That was true, her riding and shooting skills were one of the best.
“You’ve missed quite a lot of thrilling action in the two days that you were away! At the moment, San Dianxia and Wu Dianxia are currently tied at second place, and Qi Dianxia has the lead with most quarry caught!” Lin Xiaojie was enraptured by the activities at the hunting grounds.
Li Weiyang glanced into the distance, hearing the rumble of horse hooves, seeing the clouds of dust they kicked up. Countless riders were storming the hunting grounds, capturing their prey. It was indeed, a magnificent sight.
“Hng, some people are obviously trying to use their wounds to gain attention, flaunting her prowess just because she saved Jiu Gongzhu. It was only a trivial matter after all!” A cold voice pierced through the ruckus.
Li Weiyang arched her brows towards the source, which turned out to be a cool and haughty Gao Min.
Gao Min met her eyes, and her heart skipped a beat. She continued her tirade. “It was only an eagle which spooked the horse, what is there to show off!”
Li Weiyang lowered her gaze. Gao Min’s presence at the scene could not be just a random coincidence. It may be that she was watching her, or she had something to do with the incident. Either way, she was definitely up to no good.
Li Weiyang gave it some thought, then stood up with a smile on her face. “That day, I saw how Biao Jie was riding splendidly, I wonder if you would dare to pit your skills against mine?”
Gao Min hmphed coolly. “Of course I’m not afraid!” She saw how Li Weiyang fell from her horse, so naturally she felt that her riding skills were just so-so. She wanted to take this chance to squash Li Weiyang’s pride and reputation; let everyone see for themselves who is the most outstanding lady!
Sun Xiaojie clapped excitedly. “Good, good! I love watching riding compet.i.tions! I’ll be the judge!”
Gao Min leapt up onto her horse, smirking at Li Weiyang as if to goad her.
Li Weiyang only smiled. She made her way down and without anyone to help her, jumped onto her saddle. Seeing how nimble and graceful she was while mounting her horse, Sun Mingyu knew at once what a good rider she was. “We’ll take that red line as the boundary, I’ll count to three, and whomever reaches first wins!”
“Li Weiyang, since you want to embarra.s.s yourself so badly, I’ll grant your wish!” Gao Min tilted her chin, as proud as a gorgeous peac.o.c.k.
Li Weiyang’s reply was a small smile, and she exchanged a glance with Zhaoyue, who was on the stage.
Zhaoyue nodded, lightly gesturing to show that she understood.
In these three days past, Zuo Yuan had been waiting for a second chance, but Li Weiyang had stayed behind in her tent with the entrance firmly shut, so he could not make his move. And just now, Li Weiyang was constantly surrounded by the other Xiaojies, hence he couldn’t commit any rash decisions either, lest he be exposed easily.
However, this foolish Li Weiyang suddenly decided to compete against Gao Min; what an extremely good chance! Zuo Yuan got excited just by thinking about it. He fixed his sights on the mounted Li Weiyang, his intent to kill getting sharper by the second. He stayed hidden, thinking hard of how to make her death look like an accident. Even if he killed her himself, they might not be able to discover that it was him; with so many people around, it couldn’t be that easy to investigate, could it? However, he still did not dare to take the risk.
At this moment, the ongoing hunt seemed to be drawing to a close, and a huge group of cavalry and foot soldiers alike were heading back with their prey. All of them were carrying bows and arrows; Zuo Yuan revealed a sinister grin, wasn’t this a chance granted by heaven itself? He just had to hide in the crowd and direct his arrow towards Li Weiyang, so that witnesses would think that it was just a stray arrow. Hence no killer could be found, because how was that his fault!
He’d be promoted faster than he could imagine!
“Three, two, one!” Sun Xiaojie flourished her silk scarf, flushing red with excitement.
With a tight squeeze, Gao Min prompted the horse into a gallop, flying ahead with the wind whistling freely in her ears. The speed brought to her a sense of pleasure and pride. Li Weiyang gave a slight smile, and brandishing her whip, she caught up with Gao Min’s pace, leisurely just one step behind her. As Gao Min heard the clatter of hooves, she turned her head, only to catch sight of Li Weiyang right behind her. Enraged, she gave her horse another lick of the whip to get it to speed up.
The ladies on the viewing stage usually did not leave their mansions, so they had never seen such a presentation before. Everyone was thrilled, forgetting about their well-practiced manners and cheering loudly for Li Weiyang and Gao Min.
Wei Guo Furen was watching on with cold and unflinching eyes; in her heart, the winner would definitely be Gao Min. In her utter confidence, she sat chatting with the other Furens, not paying much attention to the race.
The scarlet line was just before their eyes. A cold smile appeared on Li Weiyang’s lips; she flicked her whip, sending her neck to neck with Gao Min.
It seemed like it was going to be a draw.
Amongst the crowd, shouts rang out from the mounted archers, and someone with evil intentions was drawing his bow.
“Danger!” From her viewpoint, Sun Xiaojie saw a sharp flash of light streak towards Li Weiyang, and immediately shouted a warning.
In that critical moment, Li Weiyang felt the same lance of light rush past her eyes, and she smiled coldly. This is the moment!
Right now, Zuo Yuan, Li Weiyang, and Gao Min’s positions had formed up a straight line. Rather than suggest that Gao Min was coincidentally the last person at the end of the line, it would be more appropriate to say that Li Weiyang had purposely positioned herself behind Gao Min, drawing the attention of the a.s.sa.s.sin.
The arrow had been loosened.
Li Weiyang kicked lightly with her toes, slowing her horse to a trot and arching her body away. The piercing arrow which should have ended her life missed her just like that. With a shrill whistle, it brushed past the top of Li Weiyang’s head and embedded itself deeply into Gao Min’s shoulder; but that didn’t stop its burst of energy. The force of the impact sent Gao Min flying entirely out of her saddle, as if she was a kite. She landed heavily on the ground.
Tuoba Zhen, Tuoba Yu and the other princes were part of the group that had finished the hunt, returning in time just to witness this horrible scene. Wu Huangzi burst out: “It’s that witch!”
The sharp arrow had zoomed past Li Weiyang’s head, shattering only her hairpiece, so her dark tresses were suddenly flowing freely in the wind, and then falling slowly and smoothly like an ebony stream of spring water, to her waist. The sight was so mesmerizing that it took the crowd’s breath away. As she lifted her face away from her cloud of unbound hair, her gaze was crystal cold and entrancing. Tuoba Yu gazed at her blankly, lost in the confusing beauty she had. It was like a reflection of the moon on water; unrealistic, but impossibly attractive and hard to look away.
Everyone forgot about Gao Min in that minute; they were dumbstruck by Li Weiyang.
Until Wei Guo Furen let out a heartrending wail, screaming as if she was torn apart and rushing down from the viewing platform.
Many of them recovered their senses then, sprinting towards where Gao Min lay; however, she had already lost consciousness, her blood seeping and spreading onto the ground. She looked broken, like a ragdoll.
“Get the royal physician, quickly get him here!” Tuoba Zhen roared.
Li Weiyang suddenly screamed out, “Capture that man! This arrow came from him!”
Zuo Yuan had originally planned to make use of the chaos to escape the scene, but he froze on the spot as everybody’s shocked gaze locked onto him. How could it be! In such a mere second, how did Li Weiyang manage to dodge the arrow, and how did she know it was him! His blood turned to ice in his veins; it was impossible!
Tuoba Yu took a single glance at him. An unexplainable emotion flitted across his eyes, and he ordered coolly for him to be tied up.
Completely stunned, Zuo Yuan was surrounded by soldiers and pinned down to the ground!
The royal physician arrived swiftly, and after checking on Gao Min carefully, he announced: “The arrow wound is not fatal, but as she was riding at such a fast speed, the impact of the fall has broken her spine. I’m afraid that for the rest of her life…”
Wei Guo Furen screeched uncontrollably in a high pitch, rushing at Zuo Yuan like a mad woman and clawing at his face with her sharp nails. Zuo Yuan was shouting in pain at her animalistic fury, but as his hands and feet were bound tightly, he had no way to resist her. His face was soon b.l.o.o.d.y and disfigured, but Wei Guo Furen did not stop her screams. “You return me my daughter! Return her to me!”
Only Tuoba Yu approached Li Weiyang. “Are you alright?”
Li Weiyang watched the scene coolly. “That man, who is he?”
Tuoba Yu did not know how to reply her. His well sculpted face was lit up by the rays of the afternoon sun, giving off a golden glow. In the midst of his brilliant visage, he looked uncomfortable, as if he couldn’t believe what was happening. “He is one of mine.”
After saying that sentence, he felt extremely relieved. He could have chosen to lie to her, but such an untruth would only let him feel guilty, so he’d rather be straightforward.
Li Weiyang’s gaze suddenly chilled him to his bones.
In that moment, Tuoba Yu felt like his heart had been frozen by her frosty stare.
He had known that there were ice shards in her heart; doubt, indifference, distance. He had tried his best to understand her, but he could still feel that these feelings were stubbornly enrooted in her; a bit of simple warmth couldn’t melt her so easily. Especially now, the sharp look she gave him was freezing.
“I know that this incident had nothing to do with you, but you have to give me an explanation. If anything like this happens again, I cannot guarantee you that the arrow will not be targeted towards De Fei Niang Niang.” She might have sounded indifferent, but she made it extremely clear that she would not grant any mercy on Tuoba Yu’s behalf. If they made her angry, she could always give her information to others; Tuoba Yu need her help more than she needed him. Did this mother and son pair misunderstand the situation?
“I will speak with Mu Fei2 and clear things up. This will not happen again.” Tuoba Yu looked dejected.
Li Weiyang watched coolly as Zuo Yuan was escorted away. “I want him to pay with his life.”
Tuoba Yu could only nod. “I’ll bring you his head.”
“For those who dare to lay a finger on me, I won’t care if they’ll have to be torn apart.” Li Weiyang blinked calmly.
Tuoba Yu was speechless, but finally nodded. “Of course.”
From one point of view, Li Weiyang was much crueller than him, but she was also very decisive and ruthless towards enemies who wished her harm.
“How did you discover him just now?” It must have been hard to find him amongst the crowd.
“Zhaoyue, show Qi Dianxia your treasure.” Li Weiyang waved her forwards.
Zhaoyue had already rushed over to Li Weiyang earlier. As stony-faced as her mistress, she flashed the bronze mirror hidden in her sleeves, and Tuoba Yu understood at once.
“I had asked Zhaoyue to pay attention to our surroundings, so when that person shot the arrow, she signalled me.” Li Weiyang only gave him a simple explanation, but the details were much more complicated. How did Zhaoyue discover Zuo Yuan, how to catch the best timing, and how to pa.s.s on their pre-arranged signal; she did not bother with the specifics, but Tuoba Yu knew it all.
It was merely a show.
Li Weiyang’s challenge to Gao Min was a sincere invitation to her own death.
“Why did you choose Gao Min?” Tuoba Yu wanted to know; because he understood that athough Li Weiyang was ruthless, she wouldn’t prey on the innocent.
Li Weiyang smiled. “Somebody witnessed Wei Guo Furen and Gao Min constantly paying visits to De Fei Niang Niang’s tent for the past few days. Seeing how much they care for me, shouldn’t I repay them the same kindness? Imagine being bedridden for the rest of her life, such kind of torture for Gao Min should be slightly better than death, isn’t it? Wei Guo Furen would be pleased that she won’t die, at least, and I doubt she would let that man off easily too.”
Tuoba Zhen was watching them from afar, thinking that they were exchanging words of intimacy as he wasn’t within hearing range. He saw Li Weiyang’s small smile, and even though it was a cold smile, he couldn’t bear the jealously. Wrenching his head away, he shouted out: “Quickly lift Gao Xiaojie up!”
Onlookers hurriedly went over to carry Gao Min, and some Xiaojies had fainted with fright, so others also helped them up. In a daze, Sun Xiaojie remained where she was, lowering her head down to look at her own hands. She had touched Gao Min just now, so her hands were filled with fresh blood. Li Weiyang went to her side, hearing Sun Xiaojie mutter. “Blood, so much blood…”
“Biao Jie must be severely injured.” Li Weiyang sounded concerned.
As she wiped away the blood on her hands with her scarf, Sun Xiaojie sighed. “I’m afraid that she will never be able to stand for the rest of her life. Aiya, what a close shave, if that arrow had hit you, it would have been fatal! I wonder who was such a blind fool, and to think that accidental injuries like this happens every year!”
“Yes, Biao Jie is so pitiful.” Li Weiyang’s smile was tinged with sympathy and regret.
Because such accidents occurred every year, no one paid any special attention to what had transpired in the day. Everyone just felt that Gao Min was plain unlucky. As for Zuo Yuan, his offence towards Marquis Bo Chang caused him to be downgraded to a commoner, but his life was to be spared until investigations were complete. However, it was as if he lost his mind; he escaped from his holding area and ran out of the hunting grounds. The next day, he was found torn to shreds by a black bear.
“Xiaojie, I suppose this would count as being drawn and quartered3.” Zhaoyue said.
Li Weiyang smiled. “It seems that Tuoba Yu is a man of his words.”
Zuo Yuan had attempted to kill her twice, so this was what he deserved. As for De Fei… Li Weiyang had a small smile on her lips. She couldn’t make her move at this time, plus she had to give in on Tuoba Yu’s behalf for now. But it did not mean that De Fei would not meet with any troubles, because that simply wasn’t her style.
When Tuoba Zhen returned to his tent, it had already grown dark. Among the serving maids who brought him his dinner was a girl whom he did not recognize; she had a pair of bright and clear eyes. “Dianxia, please enjoy your meal.” She offered him dishes from a serving tray.
Tuoba Zhen glanced at her, and his gaze was fixed onto her beautiful eyes.
It was déjà vu; did he meet her before?
His eyes never left her face. “What is your name?”
A red flush crept up her pretty face, and she stammered. “Dianxia, Nubi is called Zhuo Er.”
Tuoba Zhen continued studying her, wordless.
He had instructed his trusted men to check on Li Weiyang, but they had mistaken his purpose. They a.s.sumed that they had figured out his intentions, and had tried ways and means to procure girls who had features resembling Li Weiyang to serve him.
Zhuo Er tried to please him; she put down the tray and demurely went to sit by Tuoba Zhen. “Dianxia, please have your dinner.” As she sat down, she kept her eyes on an expensive jade pendant hanging from his side. She was from the countryside, and did not know why she had suddenly been brought here. Tuoba Zhen was handsome and admirable, plus, the way he looked at her was especially different. All of these led to Zhuo Er thinking that she was about to soar upward and onward to glory.
“You like me?” It was an out of character question, coming from Tuoba Zhen, who still had his eyes fixed on her features.
Her blush deepened. “Dianxia is esteemed and outstanding, Nubi… admires you greatly.”
Such a similar face but spouting completely different words. Tuoba Zhen felt absurd, and he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He smiled warmly, taking off his jade pendant and throwing it to Zhuo Er. “A gift for you.”
Zhuo Er was delighted beyond words, thanking him for his generosity.
“Dianxia, there are updates.” A man clad in black stepped into the tent.
As Zhuo Er curtseyed and left, the smile on Tuoba Zhen’s face faded and was replaced by a killer’s expression. “We’ve let someone take the lead again.”
“Shu Xia4 is incapable.” He Tuo lowered his head in an apology.
“I had thought he let Zuo Yuan go on purpose to give him a second chance, but I never knew that he would be so decisive. He used this chance to demonstrate his feelings to Li Weiyang; exchanging a life for his own, how smart!” Tuoba Zhen laughed coldly, then sighed. “If only Zuo Yuan had ended up in my clutches, I’d definitely have a way to get him to expose De Fei.” After a moment of silence, he resumed his tirade. “Too bad we were a step too late.” He could have had the chance to break apart Tuoba Yu and Li Weiyang’s relationship entirely; if Li Weiyang heard with her own ears from Zuo Yuan, how he was instigated by De Fei, she would definitely fallout with Tuoba Yu.
“Ten of my important subordinates were removed, Tuoba Yu is not simple at all.”
He Tuo kept his head lowered. “Dianxia, forgive Shu Xia exceeding my limits, but information has been leaked yet again; I am afraid that there are spies in our midst, we should get rid of them.”
“It seems like we have to investigate thoroughly.” Tuoba Zhen sighed deeply, frowning.
At this instant, He Tuo suddenly called out. “Who is it?!”